Mistakes Product Managers make in answering Product Design interviews
So you’ve read the book and watched the youtube videos. You have even practiced with other product managers.
You spent weeks and months preparing for your Google or Meta product design interview.
And even then, you don’t make it past the first round.
You might be making these common mistakes!
Obsessing about the Framework
The most common mistake that product managers or aspiring product managers make when preparing for product design interviews is obsessing about the framework.
There are a lot of product management frameworks (Lewis Lin’s circles, Moscow, working backward, RICE, and AARRR…to name a few), and they’re all great. They all have value.
But frameworks are merely guardrails to help you direct and explain your thinking in a particular way. They don’t give you the thinking.
For example, in your framework, you must think about customer segments well; how do you segment? That’s a deep topic. How do you develop a suitable needs structure when discussing customer problems, jobs to be done, or needs? A framework can’t give you that. It will tell you where that fits in, but where the focus should lie is on something other than the structure.
Focus instead on building muscle; the skill of coming up with many pain points, significant customer segments, great solutions with different innovative technology, or great metrics.
That’s where you need to practice and where you need to get feedback because that’s a learned skill. You have to get to unconscious competence where you don’t have to think about these things so much, and they become natural and spontaneous.
I’ve had people I’ve worked with and sometimes not, who said, ‘You know, I interviewed at Google two years ago, and they have many product design questions. I have yet to do that work. I did a half-assed job of preparing for the interviews, and I surprisingly didn’t get a hire from Google. I’m back, and they want me to interview again, so that’s where I am.
No wonder you didn’t get the offer!
One of the reasons why companies ask about product design is that they want to know that you want to be a product manager. That is a big thing that they’re testing. Do you want to be good at thinking about segments, solving problems, and what customer needs might be? Not putting in the effort and doing a half-hour job preparing for your interview demonstrates to the world and yourself that you don’t give a damn.
Stop treating product design questions as a necessary evil
Product design questions are not evil. They are vehicles to help you become a better product manager; to improve your skill sets. When you go in with that mindset with that approach, things suddenly become more fun and more straightforward.
When you can make anything fun, you find that everything is much more manageable. Life flows, you improve as a product manager, and you land that fantastic job.
Change your thinking so that these product design questions become a way of learning and becoming better product managers.
Scheduling them based on the recruiter’s convenience
The next part is scheduling. Typically when you get pinged by a recruiter at Google and after you accept, they say perfect; when should I schedule the first interview? You respond, “Whenever you want!” They plan it for three weeks from that day.
You’re thinking, fantastic; you have your date set.
In actuality, that is not going to work.
You just signed up for an unknown target with a fixed timeline. You have no idea if you will be great or if you might suck and need months to prepare. You want to enter your interview prepared, knowing exactly where you stand.
Setting ultra-aggressive short timelines without understanding and clarity of where you stand is a recipe for disaster. Get a realistic plan and sensible deadline.
Treating mock interviews as the only way to improve
Another common mistake I see many people repeat is treating mock interviews as the only way you’ll improve. Let’s go back to one of the common mistakes; reliance on frameworks.
I encourage you to build that muscle of product design and thinking.
Let’s use tennis as an example. You can play games repeatedly, but there are other forms of practice that athletes do. They run drills with their coaches; backhand, lob, forehand, and so on. They micro-focus on the details, and once those skills become precise, they combine them in a match.
By only doing mock interviews, you’re limiting your ability to improve.
Doing it alone
Now let’s think about something else.
How many sports players have coaches? All of them. Athletes don’t find somebody else in the same spot, ask for their help, and expect to improve.
You need to find a coach who understands the interview process, can look at what you’re doing, and tell you exactly where you stand; to rate you as if they were interviewing you today. You want feedback on the places you fell, the areas where you excelled, and from there, drills to improve. And you want this feedback from someone with the experience, skillsets, and knowledge you know will take you to the next level. You can only get you so far by relying on peers for feedback.
Coaches like that will give you the pointed feedback that will cut short months of experience and practice and get you that job you deserve quickly.
Focus on the individual skills, get better, and then do mock interviews that solidify everything. That is how to get you ready for the real stuff.
Now you know the mistakes that people make in product design.
You have two choices here. You can say what an excellent article to yourself and go back to your peer review groups. Or, if you’re preparing for product design, you can call us and take yourself to that next level and get the job at Google this go around.
When you call, we will do a step-by-step analysis of your career, where things are working for you, where things are not working for you, your goals, and what you genuinely want. From there, if there’s a way that we can help, we’ll certainly show you how. And if not, you still get significant value and clarity from that call.
If you liked the blog post, you would love my free workshop, “5 Steps our Product Manager Clients Take to Land Their Dream Job, Increase Their Salary by 200%+, and Accelerate Their Career.” Go ahead, enroll now!